General Lafayette IS closed. And out of the ashes…Copper Crow Beer Company.

Seems yesterday’s story wasn’t really wrong, just early and incomplete.

The General Lafayette Inn & Brewery is closed as of today and a sale of the restaurant portion of the business is pending. Meanwhile, a new company, Copper Crow Beer Company, with former General Lafayette assistant brewer Russ Czajka as president and majority owner and Chris Leonard as brewmaster, has been formed and will brew at both the current site and at the new Prism Brewery in North Wales.

“I have no ownership in the new company,” Chris told me minutes ago. “I have an agreement of sale in hand for the current restaurant and it will reopen, whether as the General Lafayette or not isn’t clear. The agreement includes the right for us to continue to use the brewery. We will make our four standard beers and two specialty beers here for the new restaurant and also some specialty beers for off-premise sales. Over at Prism, we will function as a ‘alternating brewery,’ which means we are making our own beers there ourselves rather than they’re being contract brewed.

“This is a fantastic thing for us. We’ve been trying to get out of the restaurant business for nearly a year now. That still isn’t definite but we decided this was the time to make the change, particularly with the Prism brewery ready to open [Ed Note: Prism had been contract brewing at General Lafayette]. TTB and PLCB license applications have already been filed for Copper Crow to operate there. We will also be consulting with and helping owner Rob Demaria, and I’ll be serving in a quality control capacity as well.”

While the General Lafayette bottling line has already been relocated to the new Prism plant, everything from both breweries will be draft to start, Leonard said. And he stressed that, even if the sale falls apart, Copper Crow will go on, moving all its operations to the North Wales plant.

“I couldn’t be more excited. I’m not dealing with restaurant headaches and issues any more and I get to make beer full time again. Russ and I have been talking about this for a long time. This is a very good day for us and we are very optimistic about the future.”

I just got off the phone with Chris, who was kind enough to call me first with the news. Here is his official statement;  it is going up on his website within a few minutes:

Well, it is time to finally put all the rumors to bed.  Yes, the General Lafayette Inn is now closed.

A sale has been pending for more than 11 months now.  We continue to wait for Sovereign Bank and the United States Small Business Administration to work out their differences and approve the sale.  It is our understanding that as soon as financial details are finalized and the proper license transfers are complete, the General Lafayette Inn will re-open with a new restaurant ownership/management team.  Don’t worry, your mugs are safe!

Part of our sale agreement does include the retention of the brewing operations.  So, while Russ and I are getting out of the restaurant business, we are moving full steam ahead with beer production.  The plan includes provision of General Lafayette Inn signature beers (Blonde, Red, Pale, Thunder) and at least two additional specialty beers at all times.  We will be able to increase production by approximately 60%, all of which we will distribute in the Philadelphia area.

The company that will ultimately operate the brewery at the General Lafayette Inn (once the sale is completed and licenses are transferred) is the Copper Crow Beer Company.  The “Crow” will be making beer not only in Lafayette Hill, but also in the soon to open Prism Brewery in North Wales.  The timing of this endeavor is such that it requires our full attention now.  We are providing consulting services along with manpower and some equipment to the Prism Brewing Company.  As the future success of the Crow is our top priority, ceasing restaurant operations at this time appears to be the most prudent course of action.

Look for Copper Crow IPA, Pale Ale, Alt, and Stout on draft in your local pub soon.  We expect to have our bottling operation in North Wales in full swing by early 2011.  We will also continue to produce General Lafayette Inn (Grim Reaper, Chocolate Thunder, etc.) and some Copper Crow specialty beers in Lafayette Hill for draft distribution.

While the sale is pending, we continue to brew at the General for wholesale distribution.  We brewed this year’s batch of Philadelphia Philsner on Tuesday September 21.  We will be distributing it via Bella Vista Beverage.  Look for it on draft out and about during the Phillies’ 2010 run to the World Series.  We will follow that with Novemberfest along with prototype batches of Copper Crow IPA and Copper Crow Pale Ale.

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